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Messi's stunning in-off-the-bar free-kick pushes Barca to derby win in Copa del Rey

Elsewhere, Gary Neville’s Valencia ran out 4 – 0 winners thanks to an Alvaro Negredo hat-trick.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

BARCELONA TOOK A tight grip on their Copa del Rey quarter-final tie against city rivals Espanyol with a 4 – 1 win at the Nou Camp this evening.

Second half goals from Gerard Pique and Neymar increased the cushion which Barca bring into next week’s return leg while Espanyol ended up with nine men after red cards for Arsenio Perez and Pape Diop.

After taking a ninth minute lead through Felipe Caicedo, Espanyol were guilty of a series of poor touches and failed clearances before Andres Iniesta threaded a ball to the edge of the area for Lionel Messi to finish with aplomb.
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The best was yet to come from the Argentine however, a venomous curling free-kick from distance on the left side of the area which cracked in off the underside of the bar.
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That goal 44th minute stunner ensured the hosts took a lead into the half-time break and Espanyol were left to chase the game from there on in.

Meanwhile, Alvaro Negredo hailed Gary Neville’s arrival as a turning point for Valencia’s strike force after the former Manchester City striker  bagged his first hat-trick for the club in a 4-0 Copa del Rey rout of Granada.

Victory was just Neville’s second in seven games in charge since being surprisingly handed his first managerial role by the Spanish side last month. However, the former Manchester United captain has brought Negredo back into the fold after he was sidelined by Neville’s predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo.

Valencia CF v Olympique Lyonnais - UEFA Champions League - Group H - Mestalla Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

Neville’s arrival has also coincided with an upturn in form for the club’s other strikers Paco Alcacer, Santi Mina and Rodrigo.

Negredo missed a huge chance to seal a famous win over Real Madrid in the dying seconds of Sunday’s pulsating 2-2 draw, which proved to be Rafael Benitez’s last match in charge of Madrid. But he showed no ill effects to open the scoring early on before converting two penalties after the break.

“I hope every week I get to miss a clear chance and in the next game scoring a hat-trick,” said Negredo.

This one is so special because it’s the first one with Valencia. With Gary Neville’s arrival everything has changed.”

Rodrigo scored the other goal as Valencia made next week’s second-leg a mere formality on their route to the quarter-finals.

And Neville insisted the goals for all of his frontmen were just a fruit of their labour since he took charge.

“After the game against Madrid you asked me about Alvaro and I said there was no problem, those things happen in football,” he said.

“Today you’ve seen Alvaro’s confidence and his belief. I’m really happy with all four of them, they’re all doing the right things, they’re all working hard.

“If you prepare well for football matches, you work hard then your luck comes.”

© AFP 2016

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